By Joanne Lim

I found myself joining a Women’s March for the first time and it was a truly liberating experience.

I grew up in a family of six. I have three siblings, all of which are men. For the most part, I didn’t feel any stark difference between how people treated me and my brothers, and if there ever was, it probably was borne out of the quite large age gap I have with them. I also grew up in an environment where being a woman did not mean you were anything less. Both my parents worked and did housework. Shows and movies I watched, games I played and music I listened to portrayed women as strong and complex individuals.

Some may argue that my generation is the one that has experienced the farthest we have ever reached in erasing discrimination of women. It is our generation of women who can now vote, pursue different professions and even run for high office. It is also our generation who don’t have that much restriction on what we could wear. It is also our generation which has finally broken the silence on sexual harassment in significant levels.

Upon joining the protest action, I was able to see for myself different generations of women pushing for changes not only for the women sector, but for the whole of society. There were women who were fighting since the First Quarter Storm days and had great contributions to the success of toppling the Marcos dictatorship. There were women who have been toiling for years in their jobs as teachers and vendors and have served very personal roles in everyone’s lives. There were women of all ages demanding for the end of labor contractualization that President Rodrigo Duterte has still refused to do, challenging Duterte’s charter change and federalism and calling for climate justice.

I learned that individual freedoms we women now enjoy have only been made possible due to decades- worth of tireless struggle, and a lot is still yet to be won. Laws still exist which discriminate against women and bills are yet to be won which would ensure the rights of women be recognized. Disparities still exist when it comes to conditions in the workplace, access to education and healthcare and family dynamics between men and women. We also live in a time where our President is the one constantly making misogynistic jokes and reinforcing archaic gender roles in public.

I found myself to be surrounded by women who, aside from fighting for gender equality, fight against poverty and inequality. I also saw for myself how women together are a force to be reckoned with. Rather than seeing women as passive and waiting individuals just as how they are usually portrayed, I saw how they are people of action pushing for genuine change. The women’s movement cannot be separated from the movement for equal rights for all. The world the women struggle for is of that which not only stops the exploitation of women, but that of the exploitation of a large section of people by a few for the sake of profit. What women want is to put an end to a system that has breached ecological boundaries and ravaged communities and has never put the people first.

Joanne Lim is a volunteer of 350 Pilipinas and is the spokesperson of Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, a political youth organization involved in the Marcos burial protests and is currently engaged in the campaign on the Free Education Law. Photo: Freedom From Debt Coalition